Tagged: Robin

Dennis O’Neil: PI’s

Now as I was young and easy and gentlemen still trod the Earth and politics still made sense (a little… sometimes) I held that private eye fiction was about righteous men who had the courage to be alone. I was, at the time, living by myself in a small Manhattan apartment and so I guess I was seeking identification with heroes (and maybe seeking an excuse for my isolation.) But I was, I now think, wrong.

Which fictional gumshoes did I have in mind? My two favorites were Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and they were, indeed, solitary beings walking the mean streets seeking truth. And there were others sprinkled through the pop culture regions of pulp magazines, radio, B movies. (Comic books? Patience, please, we’ll get to them.)

If you’re looking for antecedents, cast a glance at the King Arthur stories. Arthur’s knights mostly roved without companionship on their quests for the holy grail or whatever. But they did have a whole posse of clanky buddies waiting for their return at that round table, not to mention the odd fair maiden.

And from the very beginning of detective fiction, the heroes often had assistants, sidekicks, companions, homies – you pick the terminology – and these did a lot more than wait at home for the questers return. Edgar Allen Poe published the first private eye story way back in 1841. His hero was not a cop; he was a gifted amateur sleuth and here Poe established a much-imitated prototype, and not the only one. His good guy was a Gallic dilettante named C. Auguste Dupin whose exploits were related by an anonymous narrator whose name Poe did not share… and a mere 46 years later behold!

Dr. John Watson delighting us with the wizardry of his roommate and constant companion, the world’s first “consulting detective” and by now you know that I refer to the master, Sherlock Holmes. Then, a lot of others, some lone wolves, some with healthier social lives.

Comics have not been congenial hosts to the consulting detective crowd..There have been a few, including a pre-Superman toughie named Slam Bradley who, by the way, had a sidekick, Shorty Morgan. Slam was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the team much better known for Superman.

Superman did not have on-the-job companionship, at least not in his early days, when he was supposed to be the only survivor of a doomed planet. (That changed. Considerably.) But Batman, the character Superman’s publisher commissioned to repeat his success, though originally a loner, had, within 11 months of his debut, an official assistant, Robin The Boy Wonder. Costumed vigilantes thereafter often came equipped with young acolytes.

And that brings us to now. These days, the superheroic genre is evolving a new paradigm. There is a kind of boss hero and several attractive helpers who take an active part in the quelling of antagonists. They aren’t gathering dust at that stupid table, they’re doing stuff! This, I think, is to accommodate the needs of television, which reaches a much bigger audience than print media ever did , specifically, a certain demographic, millennials old enough to have disposable income and young enough to identify with having lots of friends and getting involved with romances and disapproving parents and such woes. Of the five comics-derived weekly shows, only Gotham violates this pattern; its creators are going with the earlier Holmes-Watson template.

And say! Did you hear about Sherlock’s girlfriend? Elly Mentary?

Yes. Inexcusable. Bye.

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll The Law Is A Ass #389


Now I know the answer to the question.

For years people have been asking me, what kind of laws would the Marvel or DC legislatures – federal, state, or local – have passed in light of the super-powered activities in their respective universes?

Now you know the question.

So, what’s the answer? Well, after what happened in the Robin War story that ran through several of the Batman family of books earlier this year, I deduced what the answer to that question must be. A two-thirds supermajority of Congress must have passed an amendment to the Constitution. Then a three-fourths supermajority of the fifty states ratified said amendment and the amendment became part of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

What did said amendment say? Again, based on what happened in “Robin War,” it must have said, “Hey, you know that whole Bill of Rights thing? Offer void where prohibited.”

Seriously, there can be no other explanation for what happened in “Robin War.”

Now, if you’re good, you should also know the next question: What happened in “Robin War?” And I’ll get to that. But before I can answer that question, I have to tell a little of what happened in We Are Robin, the comic book off of which “Robin War” spin-off spun.

We Are Robin was a comic book about an African-American teenager named Duke Thomas, who was so inspired by Batman and his succession of Robin sidekicks that he created his own startup comprised of teenage crime fighting vigilantes. Everyone in the group adopted the non du guerre Robin and wore something with an identifiable element of the Robin costume on it. Maybe a red shirt or hoodie or baseball cap. But something that was red and had the Robin insignia on it. The Robins fought crime in Gotham City, and spouted the team’s catchphrase, “I am Robin,” more often than a pod of whales with a dozen extra blowholes.

Which leads us to “Robin War.” In Robin War #1, one of the Robins stopped an armed robbery. The Robin subdued the robber and had taken his gun. That’s when an armed police officer entered the store and, upon seeing two masked people in the store one of whom was holding a gun, made the not unwarranted assumption that both the actual perp and the Robin were robbin’ the store. While the police officer tried to make an unwarranted arrest – well, it was a warranted arrest, the officer just didn’t have a warrant – the Robin didn’t put down the gun as ordered and tried to explain that he was one of the good guys and had apprehended a robber. The robber used the confusion to try to escape. Which created a “shots fired” situation. Unfortunately, shots were fired by the Robin into the officer, accidentally killing him.

That’s when the Gotham City Council, led by Councilwoman Noctua, passed the most sweeping and unconstitutionally overreaching laws I’ve ever seen. Which is why I hypothesize that there must have been a “void where prohibited” amendment added to the Constitution. Otherwise the “Robin Laws,” unlike a real robin, could never have gotten off the ground.

The laws placed City Council “in charge of all police matters related to Robin matters.” They also made possessing or wearing “Robin paraphernalia” illegal. “Anyone seen in a Robin mask, or a Robin ‘R’ or whatever they wear [would be] immediately identifiable as a delinquent and subject to arrest.”

How broad and overreaching were these laws? Well, when Duke Thomas was walking down the street, he was arrested simply for wearing red sneakers. “Red means Robin. And in Gotham, Robin means you’re under arrest.” The shoes in question had no Robin indicia on them. No Robin logo. Not even an R. Duke was arrested simply for wearing red shoes.

In a world where the Constitution hasn’t been declared void, this law would be struck down as unconstitutionally overbroad. You can’t make it illegal for all people to wear red clothing, simply because some kids wore red clothing to play at being Robin. Under the law, people who were wearing red for perfectly legal reasons would be subject to arrest. Ringmasters could be arrested. Revolutionary War reenactors. Hell, firemen could be arrested for wearing their red suspenders.

In the height of the Crips and Bloods wars, did Los Angeles make it illegal to wear black or red? No. If they had Wayne Gretzky would have won the 1993 Stanley Cup playing for the San Quentin team, not the Los Angeles Kings.

Know what else would be unconstitutional? City Council ordering the police department to search every locker in a school “for evidence of any delinquent activity.” So guess what happened in Gotham City schools after the Robin Laws were enacted?

I know in New Jersey v. T.L.O., the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a school environment does permit some easing of the search and seizure requirements of the Fourth Amendment. But even T.L.O. didn’t authorize the wholesale abandonment of the Fourth Amendment shown in this story. Or the sort of blanket searches committed in this story. Hell, they weren’t even searching for blankets.

The T.L.O. court said a high school search is reasonable if 1) there are reasonable grounds for believing the search will reveal evidence that the student or students whose property is being searched violated the law and 2) the search is related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive. The searches conducted in this story didn’t meet either of the T.L.O. criteria.

Search of every locker in a school to find out whether any of the students might possibly have Robin paraphernalia? Not based on reasonable suspicion. Search every locker even those of students you have no reason to believe might be Robins? Excessively intrusive. Let silly things like the Constitution stop you from doing whatever you want? Naw, constitutions are for wussies.

Then there was the question of what the Robin Laws allowed Gotham City to do with the Robins after most of the Robins were arrested. In Detective Comics v2 #47, we learned the Robins were being kept in supermax jail cells suspended from the ceiling like bird cages. Because, well when you’re dealing with a bunch of kids wearing bird-motif costumes, why be subtle?

Some of these Robins were under the age of 18, so juvenile offenders. Juveniles are treated differently than adults. When a juvenile is arrested in New Jersey, the courts must hold an initial detention hearing by no later than the following day and both the juvenile and the juvenile’s parents or legal guardians must be present. They can’t be held in supermax conditions indefinitely. Moreover, the parents or legal guardians of a juvenile must be notified of the juvenile’s arrest and must be present anytime the juveniles are questioned. The juveniles can’t be held incommunicado.

You know, the Robin Laws in this story were so extreme and sweeping and illegal and unconstitutional, you’d think that Councilwoman Noctua, who spearheaded the laws, had her own secret agenda and was benefitting financially from the chaos the laws created. Turns out –


Noctua was lining her pocketbooks from the chaos created by the Robin Laws and using the laws to earn a place in the Court of Owls.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why the rest of the Gotham City Council agreed to these patently unconstitutional laws. But I only explain why legislatures in comic books can’t do the things they’re shown doing. I don’t try to explain why they do them. That way lies madness.

Dennis O’Neil and Patsy Walker: Reunited!

1945-patsywalker1Well, I’ll be swoggled! I do believe that’s Patsy Walker moving across my television screen. Haven’t seen her since we stopped working together at Marvel Comics a half-century or so ago. Wonder if she still hangs with her friend Hedy Wolfe. I heard that she became a superhero named Hellcat and the hero thing could put a strain on friendship, particularly if Hedy remained just a girl on the go-go. And who is this, coming to join Patsy? Darned if it isn’t Luke Cage, otherwise known as Power Man. (Brace yourself for a spoiler.) Didn’t he marry Jessica Jones somewhere along the line? Are they still an item? According to the story that’s materializing on my screen, they are, though I don’t see any wedding rings. Oops! Getting late. I’d better change the channel and…

Here we are, back in the “real world.”

What the first paragraph of this blather refers to is a TV series titled Jessica Jones, currently being streamed by Netflix. I haven’t seen it all yet – dang it, I’m old! – but that will be remedied in a day or two. Meanwhile, so far, so good. Acting, writing, action scenes, cinematography: check, check, check and check.

It’s not exactly a bundle of cheer. The story is grim and violent and the characters match the plot. What the film makers have done is to conflate superhero action with film noir, the bleak crime stories that flourished in movie houses in the 30s and 40s, and still poke their heads up now and then, here and there. It’s an existential world, noir is, where it isn’t a good idea to trust anyone, the rule book is generally useless, and cities are places of menace and shadows and ugly surprises.

Add some superheroism and you have Jessica Jones.

She’s not doing a solo. A few months ago, Marvel and Netflix gave us Daredevil, which was also heavy on the noir and looked a lot like Jessica Jones. The creative folk at those companies have found a neglected niche and are filling it admirably.

So Marvel has some characters that adapt well to a noirish treatment. What about Marvel’s arch rival, DC Comics? Any noir possibilities there? You’d certainly think so. One of their flagship characters is a night crawling avenger who is on a lifelong crusade against crime and who does not report for work at a police station.

Batman, of course. And in the course of his 76-year existence, Batman has occasionally qualified for noirdom. But only occasionally, in bursts. Want someone to blame (or credit?) How about Robin? Eleven months after Batman’s debut, he acquired a kid sidekick, a sunny lad clad in bright colors. Not the stuff of dark, perilous alleyways. Then there was a decade of inconsequential stories as the comics world recovered from witch hunts, and another few years of a comedic take on the series, and then…

Well, finally! In the comics, and in the movies directed by Christopher Nolan, a dark Batman. And a television series that is based on Batman continuity, though Batman himself appears only as his preadolescent self. Robin’s still around, but maybe not as prominent as he once was.

So both Marvel and DC are in the noir business, to one degree or another. If this were a contest, who would we judge the winner? Does anyone care?

Dennis O’Neil: Our Superhero Posses

Flash Arrow Supergirl Archie

For rent: Secret laboratory. Ideal for mad scientists, superheroes and their posses.

Now, about those posses: time was when superheroes operated pretty much alone, or with a sidekick, who could be anyone from the original Green Lantern’s cab driving Doiby Dickles to Batman’s intrepid though preadolescent Robin. Oh, there were other continuing characters in your basic superhero saga – think Jimmy Olsen and Commissioner Gordon – but when it came to doing the daring deeds the folk in the costumes usually flew solo.

Then things evolved and –

Almost certainly, a lot more people will see Supergirl on television this week than ever read one of the Maid of Might’s comic books. She’s plenty super – give her that – and as bonuses, attractive and charmiing, but she doesn’t fight evil by herself. No, she’s allied with a brainy group of colleagues who hang their doctorates in a secret lab. And if we scan the videoscape, we see that Supergirl has peers. The other two television title characters most like their comic book inspirations, Arrow and the Flash, also have lab-dwelling cohorts who can always be depended on to have the information the good guy/girl needs.

Structurally, the three shows – Supergirl, Arrow, and Flash – are virtually identical. And, again structurally, they’re pretty close to Archie Andrews, that teenage scamp, and the gang at Riverdale High. The biggest difference is that the Riversiders have no laboratory, but nobody’s perfect.

There’s a lot to be said for adding pals to the superheroic landscape. They give the hero someone to talk with, thus allowing readers/audience to eavesdrop on vital exposition (though sidekicks can do this, too, and if you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Watson.) Supporting players can also provide story opportunities. And they can add texture and variety to scenes. And the occasional comic relief. And, by their interactions with the chief evil-queller, they can add depth to that individual’s psyche. But mostly they can serve the same function as those stool pigeons and confidential informants served in the old private eye and cop shows, the scruffies who always knew what the word on the street was: they can quickly and efficiently supply data that enables the hero to get to the exciting part, usually a confrontation.

Finally, the pals and gals give the hero what seems to be absolutely necessary: a family. It’s usually a surrogate family, to be sure, and it may not be much like your family, but it has a familial dynamic and it allows the audience to experience, by proxy, what might be missing from their real lives: a secure knowledge that there are people who can counted on, who will always forgive you and have your back. And such nearests and dearests have to hang out somewhere, so why not a secret laboratory?

And while they’re there, they can supply the location of that master fiend, the one with the purple death ray and the really atrocious table manners.

Tweeks: Teen Titans Go!

TTGTweeksTeen Titans Go! is an animated TV show that follows the Teen Titans — Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven & Beast Boy — when they are not saving the world.  They live in a T-shaped building (cool) together (so cool) as teenagers (OMG even cooler) without adult supervision (CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE!)  It’s based on DC’s Teen Titans, so if you watch closely you’ll see some characters you might know.  But you should watch because they have an episode where they just say “Waffles” and one where Robin has to house sit the Bat Cave.  They also like to sing.

When we were at WonderCon, we had chance to talk with the show’s producers, Michael Jelenic and Aaron Harvath, as well as two of the voice actors, Scott Manville (Robin) and Greg Cipes (Beast Boy).  Teen Titan Go! airs Tuesday night at 6/5c on Cartoon Network.

The Law Is A Ass


Batman wasn’t always a thief.

Early in his history he wasn’t, because early in his career, Batman built the Batmobile. 2013-01-02_164926_Batmobil.jpg.phpHimself. Okay, Alfred and Robin helped. But Batman designed the car. He assembled it. He supplied the equipment. He installed the options. Batrays and Batchutes don’t exactly come factory-installed. He even knew what wheels to grease in order to get the thing declared street legal. (I mean wheels on the car, silly. I’m not suggesting that Batman would ever stoop to something as crass as bribery.)

Same was true of the Batcave, batcave-bigthe Batplane, the Batboat, the Batcycle, the Batcomputer, the Batcopter, the Batshield, the Batarang, and for those barbecues in the Batyard, the Batula. (Bruce was so fixed on his leitmotif, I don’t understand how Robin never got an inferiority complex from living with all the eponymous accoutrement day in and day out.) And, while we’re at it, Bruce also made the strange costumes of Batman, the amazing inventions of Batman, the Bat-signal, and everything else we marveled at in Batman Annual v1 #1. All those 1001 secrets of Batman and Robin? Batman built them all. All by his lonesome.

Of course back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and even well into the 70s, Batman had to build them all himself. Bruce Wayne was an incredibly wealthy man who inherited a lot of money from his incredibly wealthy father. And he funded his war on crime himself. Bruce was so rich, he probably had enough in the Wayne Manor spare change jar.

Then in the late 70s, something changed. Batman got retconned so that he wasn’t just the rich son of a rich doctor. Starting with Batman v1 #307, Bruce Wayne was the head of Wayne Enterprises. He was a captain of industry. The latest scion of a long-standing family of incredibly rich industrialists that dated back to the 19th Century when Judge Solomon Wayne started up WayneCorp and used the money he earned to found Gotham City. Over the ensuing decades – through Alan Wayne, Kenneth Wayne, Patrick Wayne, Thomas Wayne, and up to Bruce Wayne – the family fortune never waned.

And WayneCorp became a multi-national conglomerate with subsidiaries such as Wayne Pharmaceutical, Wayne Mining, Wayne Weapons, Wayne Aviation, Wayne Airlines, Wayne Oil, Wayne Energy, Wayne Manufacturing, Wayne Botanical, Wayne Studios, Wayne Records, Wayne Stage, Wayne Television, Wayne Automotive, Wayne Electric, Wayne Retail, Wayne Industries, Wayne Medical, Wayne Electronics, Wayne Entertainment, Wayne Biotech, Wayne Aerospace, Wayne Chemicals, Wayne Shipping, Wayne Steel, Wayne Shipbuilding, Wayne Foods, and, most important of all, Wayne Technologies. (How’d they miss out on the dating service, Wayne Will I Find Love?) The only things about WayneCorp that changed were its fortunes – they got much bigger – and its name. In the 1980s, it became Wayne Enterprises.

When Batman’s history was retconned to include Wayne Enterprises, Batman didn’t have to build anything on his own anymore. He had a huge, multi-national conglomerate piggy bank he could raid whenever he wanted to. And he did want to. Frequently. Batman no longer needed to develop or build his equipment anymore. Wayne Technologies did it for him.

Problem was, Wayne Technologies didn’t know it was designing and building all those wonderful toys for Batman. After all, Bruce Wayne couldn’t exactly go to Wayne Technologies and say, “Hey can you build me a new car with armor plating, puncture resistant tires, a mobile crime lab. Oh yeah, and scalloped batwings for fenders?” Not without someone getting suspicious.

So Bruce started appropriating the discarded prototypes built for projects that fell through or that Wayne Technologies abandoned. Rather than have those prototypes gathering dust and cluttering up more garage space than Jay Leno’s http://www.nbc.com/jay-lenos-garage car collection; Bruce took them, retrofitted them, and adapted them to be used as Bat-whatevers.

The most prominent example of this was in the movie Batman Begins, where Bruce Wayne took the abandoned prototype for an army vehicle called the Tumbler and turned it into the Batmobile. He also used the prototype nomex armor developed by Wayne Enterprises for another abandoned project to build his bat costume. But it wasn’t just the movies, the Bruce Wayne of the comic books did the same thing, too.

And at that point, Batman was a thief. Every time Batman did this, he was embezzling.

See all those prototypes that Bruce Wayne converted into bat paraphernalia weren’t his. They were the property of Wayne Enterprises. As Wayne Enterprises was a corporation and not a sole proprietorship, Bruce Wayne didn’t own Wayne Enterprises; the shareholders did.

If Bruce Wayne were the sole shareholder of Wayne Enterprises, there would have been no problem. He would have been the only owner, so, in essence, would have been stealing from himself. But there was more than one other. Several Bat stories mentioned other shareholders including, but not limited, to Lucius Fox. So Batman was stealing from himself and the other shareholders.

Wayne Enterprises may have been a closely-held corporation with very few shareholders. And Bruce was probably the biggest shareholder. He may even have held 99.99 % of Wayne Enterprises. But the other shareholders still owned a fractional part of the company, including a fractional part of all the equipment Bruce appropriated for his own personal bat-use. Didn’t matter if the only purpose the property served was to sit around in warehouse gathering storage fees, the fractional owners had the right not to have that fraction taken.

As one of my law school professors used to say, “He who takes what isn’t hissen, must make good or go to prison.”

And when you’re the CEO of a large multi-national conglomerate who takes corporate property for your own personal use, you’re embezzling from the company and stealing from the shareholders. You’re also breaching your fiduciary duty to the shareholders, but that’s another topic for another day.

So first Batman wasn’t a thief. Then he was. Then, recently, he wasn’t again. But why he wasn’t again is part of that fiduciary duty discussion that’s another topic for another day.

Wow, Batman and a cliff-hanger. Guess I should close with, “Tune in next week! Same Bat-Time! Same Bat-Channel!” 

The Case For The Mini-Series

Showcase Lois LaneWe’re seeing a lot of titles ending with short runs lately, both at Marvel and its Distinguished Competition.  The good news is at least a bunch of new things were tried.  DC has tried a lot of really interesting, even risky books in the New 52, and a lot have failed, but at least they’ve tried.  And that deserves some credit.

The desire now is to pump out number one issues – the argument is they provide an easy jumping on point for readers, and collectors are drawn to them like Wimpy is drawn to free hamburgers.  We see more and more series relaunched with new numbering, we see new spin-off titles, and not a lot of them last.  We’ve already heard about two new Spider-titles, and one of the characters hasn’t even appeared yet.  There’s no real way to know if a continuing Spider-Gwen book will sell, but here it comes.

It got me thinking… maybe the way things used to be done in comics wasn’t such a bad way.

Back in the day, TV shows didn’t always start as TV shows.  They’d do a TV movie as a glorified pilot, to test the water.  The Love Boat and Fantasy Island both got several TV movies before they went to series.  Even today, popular shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who get a limited number of episodes in a series – 13 episodes a year for Doctor Who, three every so often for Sherlock.  No chance for the characters to get tired, the stories are kept tight, no padding needed.

Likewise, comic books used to get new characters tried out in an anthology book like Showcase, and a series would get greenlit after the sales (and the fan letters) were tabulated. In the 80s, we’d see mini-series for those new characters.  Robin got, what, three minis before he finally got a title.  Lobo got an endless run of minis and one-shots before the regular book.  There’s a lot of characters who started with a mini, and went on to long-lived regular titles

The point was, they’d try out new ideas, but in a smaller way, see how the sales did, and then pull the trigger on a regular series.  And it gave them the same number of new numbers one issues that they like to put out there.

So I wonder, might a return to testing the water with mini or maxi-series “With an option” be worth a look?

The latest She-Hulk series is ending with issue 12.  But say She-Hulk were originally sold as a 6 or 12-issue series instead of a continuing, It’s possible more people might have been enticed to try it, especially if it’s made clear that sales would add weight to making it a regular series.  By the time issue six or seven came along, they’d probably have enough data to decide if a continuing series could sell.  They could make the announcement in the last issue of the series, get people excited about the continuing, and get a solicitation out shortly after.

Of course, I expect there would be people who’d think “Meh, it’s only a mini-series” and skip it as well.

Heck, perhaps there are some characters who would work better just in minis, albeit a regular number of them.  The Great Lakes Avengers worked (IMHO) better in small doses, a single storyline at a time. As much hope they put on Alpha in the  Spider-titles, he got a mini-seres, and save for one or two cameos, we’ve not seen anything else.  The mini was a good test of the waters.

As much fun as a Squirrel Girl title could be, I’m not 100% sure the title will hold long-term. Like She-Hulk, I fear we’d get maybe 12 issues. But a six-issue mini, maybe one a year?  I think it’d work well.  I think there’s a lot of characters who could carry a short run with a one-and-done story.

They’re a good opportunity to test out new talent as well. See how long a new penciller needs to get six issues in the can, see how well they could handle a regular series, or if the “when it’s finished” model works better.  Some of Joe Quesada’s earliest work was The Ray mini-series at DC.

Who do you think would make a good character for a mini-series, as opposed to a regular run?

Martha Thomases: Cutting The Cord

Wonder GirlIt only took me close to six decades, but I finally did it. And I’m inordinately proud of myself.

What did I do? Cure cancer? End hunger? Stop global warming? Hell, no.

I stopped buying new comics that I didn’t want.

In any other commercial business, this would seem like a simple thing to do. If I buy a lipstick and decide I don’t like the way it wears, I don’t feel like I have to buy that same lipstick over and over again. If I get food poisoning from a restaurant, I don’t feel like I owe them a return visit. But, for some reason, once I started reading a comic, I used to feel like feel like I had to read all of them.

This isn’t just my problem. Every time a publisher announces a big crossover, fans complain that the company is doing this to force readers to buy books they don’t want. It’s as if Dan DiDio is standing there with a pitchfork, stabbing people in the butt when they miss a chapter.

He’s not. Your butt is safe.

Why did it take me so long? I think it’s part of the nature of comics, especially as they have become more serialized. A self-contained story is just that. You read it, and it comes to a conclusion. However, if there is a cliffhanger, or even just a loose thread of subplot, you don’t have that sense of finality. It’s normal to want to know what happens next.

This is how Charles Dickens became a rock star, with people anxiously waiting on the piers as the boats containing the newest chapters of his novels arrived on the market. This is how movie serials brought people back, week after week, no matter what the main feature was. And this is how soap operas sold soap for decades before middle class women went into the workforce and couldn’t keep up.

We, as a species, like long and complicated stories. We develop affection for our favorite characters.

What’s happened to me, at least, is that I’ve realized that my perceptions about what makes characters my favorites are not the same as those of the people publishing them.

For example, I liked the Wonder Girl John Byrne created. She was quite different from Donna Troy, younger, not so angst-y. Her costume was pretty much stuff she pulled out of her closet, a sports bra and shorts. She was a kid, not yet obsessed with boys. She was the super-heroine I would have been at her age.

Now, she’s not. Now she’s the daughter of a god. She’s angry all the time. She worries that Robin or Superboy doesn’t like her, or will get too close, or some other crap.

Don’t even start me about Starfire.

So I’m probably not going to read the new series when it reboots. Not to make a statement or a threat. I doubt my single copy makes much of a difference to anyone’s bottom line. I stopped reading all the peripheral Green Lantern books, and they seem to be plugging along just fine. I hope that the people who like them continue to get pleasure from them, because pleasure is good, and that the writer, artists and other talents continue to get paid.

Me, I now have extra free time in my comics-reading schedule. I’ve been trying new books, and found a few that I like. I believe I’ve raved about Sex Criminals before. Southern Bastards is also good fun. I wish there was more Resident Alien.

When they reboot Wonder Girl again, I’ll check out the book and see how she’s doing.



REVIEW: Beware the Batman Season 1 Part 1

1000x1000_BewareTheBatmanS1As much as there has been a fascination with Batman since his debut 75 years ago, lately, the trend has been to examine those vital origins. This began back with the Christopher Nolan Batman Begins and will most likely be on display next fall on Fox’s Gotham. In the comics, Scott Snyder is wrapping up his own take on that first pivotal year in the cape and even Cartoon Network took a stab at it with Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham. The latter debuted last July only to be unceremoniously yanked off the air in October after 11 episodes. A total of 17 are known to exist out of the 26 ordered but despite promises the show remains off the schedule.

Meantime, Warner Archive recently collected the first 13 stories onto a two disc Blu-ray set billing it as Season One, Part One. From a content standpoint, the idea of looking at those early days is ripe for exploration in any form. Interestingly, under Executive Producer Sam Register, the production team led by Glen Mirakmai, Mitch Watson, and Butch Lukic proclaim this is Batman (Anthony Ruivivar) after being in action five years. He’s no novice by then and depending upon which continuity you follow, he’s clearly a veteran hero. That length of experience puts him at odds with how he’s portrayed, somewhat unsure of himself, somewhat error-prone.

And unlike his one-man crusade as seen in the superior Year One animated film and graphic novel, he was on his own. Alfred was reluctantly aiding him but here, he’s a willing and very active participant as his one-0time experience as a secret agent handily comes into play. James Gordon (Kurtwood Smith) is still a lieutenant at the outset, graduating to commissioner during this season. What doesn’t work at all, for me, is the adding on of Katana (Sumalee Montano) as Alfred’s goddaughter and Robin surrogate. Batman should remain a loner if you’re exploring those first days and years and if he gets a sidekick, it should certainly not be someone from another culture with her own baggage but someone more organic to the story, such as Barbara Gordon, who merely crushes on the Caped Crusader here.

That said, the series gets kudos for avoiding the tried and true villains in favor of a wide assortment of lesser lights starting with Grant Morrison’s silly Professor Pyg (Brian George) and Mister Toad (Udo Kier). The second episode introduces a darker, more malevolent Anarky (Wallace Langham) who is the meta villain for the arc and has eschewed his comic book-based philosophy in favor of being a criminal mastermind. We also get a deadlier and less silly Magpie (Grey DeLisle-Griffin). On the other hand, we get Ra’s al Ghul (Lance Reddick), Lady Shiva (Finola Hughes), and the League of Assassins so the Dark Knight certainly has his hands full.

The series is also rich with other elements of the DC Universe such as Michael Holt and Simon Stagg; and if Stagg is on hand, you can bet Rex Mason (Adam Baldwin) is here, too. In fact, “Toxic” is one of the stronger stories as Mason becomes Metamorpho and is first seen as a threat dubbed the “Golem of Old Gotham”. There’s also Jason Burr, introduced in “Safe” but who recurs and sharp-eyed readers know he is destined to become Kobra.

The series looks different, with the figure work being more angular and distorted than one expects. The CGI-animation is somewhat off-putting but better than the last straight Batman series but nowhere near as good as the original Animated Series or The Brave and the Bold. The strong writing makes you overlook the odd visuals which is a benefit.

The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds just fine, as one has come to expect. And being from the cut-rate Archive arm, there are no extras.